Grow Your Email List with these 44 Expert Tips

by Sean Kosofsky

Sean Kosofsky, Mind the Gap Consulting

If you want to raise more money and have more impact, you need a broad universe of people to solicit. You will be less effective with “cold” leads than warm ones, so how can you grow a warm list of leads for your nonprofit? Your email list is a key indicator of your capacity to find volunteers, donors, and effect change.

It’s hard to build a list from nothing, but it can be done.  Reaching scale and regular growth becomes easier after you get your first few thousand emails. But even if you have 10,000 emails now, you could do so much more with 20,000. I am sure you’ll agree. More people will want to collaborate with you. Elected leaders will want to know you. The list of benefits of growing an email list is endless.

Nonprofits tend to grow their lists by asking people to sign petitions or pledges or to join their email newsletter. I have spent my life in nonprofits trying to figure this out. But since the Spring, I have had a baptism by fire, growing my own business through a blend of marketing, business development, lead generation, and traditional nonprofit tactics.

I have created a robust list of ways for organizations to grow their email list. Marketers have learned some things about building lists through lead generation, marketing funnels, sales, and conversions. These are all terms that may seem foreign to most nonprofit staff. Nonprofits tend to think people will give us their email because they care about the issue. Marketers have known for some time that giving your email to anyone comes at a cost. So, what if nonprofits give away things of value in exchange for an email? Your newsletter may be awesome but asking someone to subscribe is not the same as giving them something they value.

When you look at the list I have created, you will see it relies very heavily on landing pages and lead magnets. A landing page is a page you create on the internet that is not necessarily attached to your website, but it serves one purpose: a call to action. So, a landing page gets you to download, sign up, buy, enroll, schedule, or take some other action so the content and design of the landing page is singularly focused. Nonprofits need to seriously start utilizing this strategy more. It also helped that it isn’t necessarily expensive. You can subscribe to a landing page service or build your own on your site, but these pages look very different from normal website pages.

Ready for some teasers from the list?  1) Did you know you can export your contact list, with emails, from Linkedin? Well, you can. Ask every board member and staff member if they are comfortable doing this and throw them all into one .csv file. Do the same with your contact list from Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook or other contact list. Then use a program like to reach out to your “cold emails” to get them to opt-in to your normal email program. 2) Chances are your board, volunteers and staff are participating in many online groups, communities, forums, Facebook groups, etc. After you have built a landing page, casually drop the link into these communities in a way that doesn’t seem like a sales pitch. Again, your landing page should offer a free giveaway that is of high value and solves a “pain point” for people. 3) Consider using your email signature as a place to include your landing page link. Bonus, have all staff and board members use autoresponders, some or all of the time, with a link and pitch for people to grab your lead magnet from your landing page.

Read the list and get back to me. Do you have additional ways to grow a list that you would like to share? Have any of these methods worked or have proven unsuccessful for you?

Check out the tool here. If you have any questions about any of the tips, reach out to me at [email protected]


About Sean, our guest writer… Sean Kosofsky is the “Nonprofit Fixer.” He is known nationally for building nonprofit capacity and fighting for marginalized populations for 25 years. He transforms organizations, inspires people to action, and magnifies the impact. Read more about Sean and his work here.

The Perils of Risk Management

There are hundreds of thousands active nonprofits in the United States. Nonprofits fail every day. Some in small ways, some failures are colossal. Some studies report as many at 80% of nonprofits fail in their first three years.

However, many nonprofits succeed with spectacular results. Here is some advice to help your organization succeed with spectacular results and keep your organization on a healthy path to success.

Failure doesn’t come because people intend to fail. Failure comes because people fail to plan and protect. Yes, it’s really that simple. Here are four warnings to be aware of that will help you be one of those success stories.

Red Light #1: Ignoring your own policies. Possibly the most severe negligence comes when an organization, its staff, volunteers and Board of Directors fail to follow their own policies and procedures. For example, if your financial policy says your accountant must be bonded and complete a background check completed and you choose to engage an accountant without those processes, you have just placed your organization at risk.

Red Light #2: Flying by the seat of your pants. Knowledge of basic nonprofit management is critical to risk management. If you are a new executive director do yourself and your organization a favor – find a basic nonprofit boot camp like the one offered by my colleague Sean Kosofsky. Understanding the fundamentals of nonprofit operation is essential to navigating the many decisions and situations you will encounter.

Red Light #3: Hiring friends and family. Make sure the people you hire are best suited and best skilled for the job. People are your greatest asset and investment. They can also be one of your biggest risks. Don’t squander it on people you might not be able to direct or discipline as necessary. Remember, nonprofits are “public benefit charities”, not your personal project.

Red Light #4: Not knowing the difference between restricted and unrestricted funds. It is imperative you learn early in your career how to read your organization’s financial statements. There is a legal difference between restricted and unrestricted funds, how they are tracked and recorded. Knowing the difference will bring you many happy returns.

If you’d like to learn more about minimizing risk to you and your agency please check out my more extensive blog on risk management. If you’d like help in creating a successful path forward for you and your agency please contact us at Pen in Hand LLC – “Planning for and Achieving Your Success”.

Risk Management Prevents Risky Business

Risk Management Prevents Risky Business
By Barbara McCullough-Jones

Creating strong, well managed nonprofits means giving the clients and communities you serve confidence to engage with your organization. It also gives your staff and leadership a foundation necessary to ensure the health and well-being of the organization.

Risk Management is one of the most important practices your organization should pay attention to. Risk Management is the practice of protecting the organization, programs and services, the Board of Directors, staff and clients.

Here are 7 quick tips to get you started checking your current practices today.

The nature of your nonprofit mission will dictate the types of polices, procedures and insurance coverages relevant to your organization’s work. Here are a few areas that are applicable to all organizations regardless of your mission.

  1. Review your General Policies and Procedures manuals. Don’t have them? Start writing! You should have a manual for general issues like building security, hiring practices and equipment purchases. You should also have a separate manual for financial policies and procedures.
  2. Review your insurance coverages. Coverages might include, but are not limited to:
    1. Directors and Officers (D&O) – protects executives and officers against claims against them.
    2. Errors and Omissions – protects professionals against claims made by clients.
    3. General Liability – covers areas such as theft, damage, onsite injuries, etc.
    4. Professional Liability – covers claims of negligence even if you have not made a mistake.
  3. Review your program plan on a regular basis. This helps ensure that your Board of Directors, staff and volunteers understand the scope of your mission and services. This review helps ensure no one operates outside of approved program goals and objectives. Having everyone on the same page helps reduce your program risk and liability. These reviews can also help prevent “mission creep” which may potentially dilute your brand and purpose, but which could also effectively diminish the overall impact of your agency.
  4. Review your human resources (HR) manual. Many small and mid-size organizations do not have an HR professional on staff. This does not abrogate your responsibility to know and follow the laws related to hiring, supervising and evaluating staff. Often organizations will strive to have an HR professional on their Board of Directors to guide staff and volunteers in current human resource best practices. Thorough “on-boarding” practices help employees understand boundaries and makes them feel secure in their knowledge of the agency’s policies and practices.
  5. Consult with an attorney familiar with the programs and services offered by your organization. They can advise the Board of Directors and executive staff on ways to further manage potential risk for your organization. If you don’t have such an attorney on your Board of Directors, it is well worth paying for an annual review of your Risk Management strategies.
  6. If your agency serves vulnerable populations (youth, seniors, differently-abled, etc.) know and understand your responsibility as a “mandatory reporter”. Again, this is not a responsibility to ignore. Many local and state jurisdictions provide training on local laws regarding mandatory reporting requirements.
  7. Have a strong business plan and review it regularly. Your organization and especially your clients will benefit from you developing a road map for your organization that lays out a smooth path forward instead of flying by the seat of your pants and constantly dodging potholes along the way. A business plan outlines your goals, measurable objectives, position in community, future opportunities, financial well-being and can identify gaps in your risk management planning.

Remember, there is no substitute for common sense. Seek expert advise where necessary and don’t put your organization out on a limb! Finally, never ever make decisions that are contrary to your written policies and procedures. You will find yourself in hot water!


Pen in Hand LLC can assist you in writing the manuals and plans discussed in this blog and provide training for your staff and Board of Directors. Please contact us for more details on how to get started today.

Barbara has served as a nonprofit executive with more than 30 years nonprofit management experience. You can read more about Barbara’s work at or contact her at [email protected] | 971-208-7441.

 Disclaimer: This article is not intended to serve as legal advice. Please consult legal and financial professionals for information specific to your nonprofit.